11 October 2019

ERC Grants for Interdisciplinary Research into Marine Ecosystems and Impaired Kidney Function

ERC Synergy Grant

Three researchers from SUND are receiving the prestigious ERC Synergy Grant that is awarded to interdisciplinary research projects. The three recipients are Assistant Professor Kristine Bohmann, who will dive into new tools within environmental DNA over the next few years, and Associate Professor Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen, who – together with Clinical Professor Michael Bachmann Nielsen – will conduct research into the scanning of organs.

Knowledge, skills and resources must be brought into play in order to create a synergy capable of pushing research in new directions. The synergy must be suitable for solving ambitious research problems and ensuring paradigm shifts, and this requires a top researcher at the helm.

These are the requirements for applicants for the ERC Synergy Grant which has just been awarded to Assistant Professor Kristine Bohmann, Section of Evolutionary Genomics, the Globe Institute, Associate Professor Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen, the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and Clinical Professor Michael Bachmann Nielsen, the Department of Clinical Medicine and Diagnostic Radiologist at Rigshospitalet.

The Impact of Human Activities on Marine Ecosystems

Kristine Bohmann is researching environmental DNA, which is the DNA that animals and plants have secreted in, for example, soil and sediments, water and faeces. The researchers are primarily working to develop and optimise the techniques for the work on environmental DNA, but are also using the techniques more broadly in biodiversity and diet studies – for example, to determine the animals from which vampire bats suck blood, which is important knowledge in the work with risk assessment of rabies. These are the techniques she will now use in the new project:

‘An ERC Synergy Grant is an important recognition and will give my work with environmental DNA a huge boost. I can now use the environmental DNA techniques and analytical methods that we have developed both in my group, the EvoGenomics section, and at the Globe Institute in a large interdisciplinary research project,’ says Kristine Bohmann, adding:

‘We need different techniques to illustrate how marine ecosystems have been affected by human activities over time. I look forward very much to working across disciplines and areas of expertise in this project, to good collaborations and to conducting a lot of exciting research. And then I hope that the new knowledge we will generate can give us important insights as to what is in store for the oceans in the future.’

The grant amounts to approx. DKK 88 million, and collaboration partners in the research projects are James Scourse (University of Exeter), Callum Roberts (University of York), Bernd Schöne (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) and Kristine Bohmann.

New Ideas, Progress and Unique Opportunities for Immersion

Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen is researching impaired kidney function and hypertension. She receives the grant together with Michael Bachmann Nielsen.

The researchers are studying the mechanisms that alter the blood flow through the kidney and its filtration, using animal models. If, for example, you remove proteins needed for cellular communication or alter the number and activity of ion channels in the vessels, you will also alter the kidney function and affect the blood pressure.

The grant shall primarily be used to develop ultrasound, so that through the scannings you can see the tiny vessels in the body and create a 3D image of the organ.

‘From a research point of view, the method will be a tool to study how, for example, diabetes and hypertension affect the kidney vessels. Are there changes in the structure of the vessel tree that are crucial for the development of kidney disease? How are the vessels affected by the treatment and is there anything we can do differently and better?’ says Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen, who also looks forward to working with other researchers.

‘It is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with top researchers who have competencies that are completely different from my own. This brings great energy to the project and new ideas come up because everyone thinks differently and sees things from different perspectives. For me personally, it also means that there will be continuity and progress in the project, providing unique opportunities to immerse myself,’ she says.

‘We are embarking on a whole new chapter when, over the coming years, we will be developing and testing this technique, super resolution imaging. The technique has the potential to become a paradigm shift, not least in connection with cancer diagnostics. Here, it can be an important tool, partly in monitoring the effect of chemotherapy, and whether cancer cells are destroyed, and partly in making cancer diagnoses that we have not previously been able to show in scannings. The method also has exciting perspectives when it comes to examining possible damage to organs, for example early detection of diabetes, where, very early on, we can see if something is happening to the kidney vessels which in the long term might lead to kidney failure,’ says Michael Bachmann Nielsen.

The grant amounts to approx. DKK 75 million and comes in the wake of 15 years of interdisciplinary research with good results – also with focus on the development of scanning techniques. The research is conducted in close collaboration between the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet and has important synergy because the team has brought together experts in transducers, signal processing and clinical radiology. In addition to Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen and Michael Bachmann Nielsen, the research team includes Professor Jørgen Arendt Jensen and Professor Erik Vilain Thomsen, both from DTU Health Technology.

Contact:

Assistant Professor Kristine Bohmann, mail: kbohmann@bio.ku.dk, telephone +45 40 75 05 21

Associate Professor Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen, mail: cmehlin@sund.ku.dk, telephone +45 28 75 74 04

Clinical Professor Michael Bachmann Nielsen, mail: michael.bachmann.nielsen@regionh.dk, telephone +45 35 45 41 86